STILL UNDERWATER Following the housing crisis, SWFL still has an abundance of homes in foreclosure

STILL UNDERWATER
Following the housing crisis, SWFL still has an abundance of homes in foreclosure

BY NANCI THEORET

HOME FORECLOSURE CASES IN SOUTHWEST Florida have taken a roller coaster ride since the crisis hit the area full steam in 2009. In Charlotte and Collier counties, the track resembles the more gentle ups and downs toward the end of the ride. Lee County’s ride started with a rapid climb up the largest hill and teetered on the precipice for few years before taking a big plunge.

Experts predict the bumpy ride is mostly over throughout Southwest Florida.

Once the poster child for the country’s foreclosure crisis, Lee County has emerged from 2009’s record high of 57,136 foreclosure actions — and the national spotlight — to last year’s 8,622, according to Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac, an online marketplace of foreclosure properties.

“Lee County behaved differently than many other Florida counties,” he says. “It just seemed there wasn’t much of a delay in filing foreclosures. In other counties we saw a rollercoaster pattern. Foreclosure started to go down then bounced back higher in 2012 and 2013.”

Such was the case in Charlotte and Collier counties. Charlotte County foreclosures in 2012 were up nearly 150 percent from 2011 — 2,100 vs. 1,407, according to clerk of court records. Collier, which peaked at 8,203 foreclosure filings in 2009, increased 127 percent between 2011 and 2012.

Foreclosures dropped in all three counties in 2013 with Lee County showing the greatest decline — a 30 percent decrease from 2012. Charlotte County’s foreclosure rate dropped nearly 15 percent; Collier’s nearly 9 percent. The reduction, according to a RealtyTrac report, was “much greater than for Florida as a whole. Charlotte County ranked 22nd in the state, Lee County 30th and Collier 52nd.

Since 2008 foreclosure cases have been filed against 120,525 underwater homeowners in the three-county region and Florida in 2013 continued to lead the country in foreclosure proceedings.

“Florida is still three times higher than the national average and that’s because Florida was harder hit to begin with,” says Mr. Blomquist. “Secondly there were delays in processing foreclosures.”

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